Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.
This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.
Decided on April 30, 2013
SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE DIVISIONFirst Judicial Department
Richard T. Andrias,Justice Presiding, David B. Saxe Karla Moskowitz Helen E. Freedman Sheila Abdus-Salaam,Justices.
Disciplinary proceedings instituted by the Departmental Disciplinary Committee for the First Judicial Department. Respondent, Nathaniel H. Weisel, was admitted to the Bar of the State of New York at a Term of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for the First Judicial Department on September 28, 1998. Jorge Dopico, Chief Counsel, Departmental Disciplinary Committee, New York (Norma I. Lopez, of counsel), for petitioner. Respondent pro se. M-5145 November 26, 2012 IN THE MATTER OF NATHANIEL H. WEISEL, AN ATTORNEY
Respondent Nathaniel H. Weisel was admitted to the practice of law in the State of New York by the First Judicial Department on September 28, 1998, as Nathaniel Harris Weisel. At all times relevant to this proceeding, he has maintained an office for the practice of law within the First Judicial Department.
On September 1, 2009, respondent's client asked him to commence a civil action. At that time, respondent did not file the action. To persuade his client that everything was proceeding well, respondent created a fraudulent stipulation of settlement with a fictional index number, caption and settlement amount. Respondent also randomly chose an opposing counsel's name from an attorney directory and forged his signature at the bottom of the document. Respondent gave the false document to his client, misrepresenting that he had settled the matter. He did not file the document with the court. On November 21, 2009, before his client discovered the deception, respondent filed a valid complaint in Small Claims court.
The other attorney eventually learned that respondent had forged his name on the fraudulent stipulation. Once his dishonesty was discovered, respondent wrote letters to his client and the attorney. In the letter to his client, respondent claimed that he suffered from an "addiction [to] lying" that he analogized to an addiction to drugs or alcohol. In the letter to the attorney, he apologized for his actions, offering the explanation that he "did not know how to properly file an action on behalf of [his] client, and felt this would buy [him] time to properly file same." He also stated he had come to the conclusion that he had trouble telling the truth, "be it either personal or business." Further, as he later testified, although he has no other disciplinary history, respondent had previously received two letters of caution from the Second Department and had received sanctions for neglecting to file orders in three Family Court matters. The Presiding Justice of the Second Department had also decertified him from Nassau County's 18-b Panel.
In January 2011, the Departmental Disciplinary Committee filed charges against respondent, alleging that he violated Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR 1200.0) rule 8.4(c) and (h), and rule 1.3(b) by forging the name of another attorney on a fraudulent document, providing a client with the false document to mislead him about the status of the case, neglecting the legal matter and failing to register with the Office of Court Administration and pay his registration fees from February 2010 to the present. In his answer, respondent admitted creating the false document and presenting it to his client, and also admitted that he failed to complete his attorney registration.
In December 2011, after hearings, the Referee sustained charges 2, 3 and 5, relying on respondent's admissions. He also sustained charges 4 and 6. Following a mitigation hearing, the Committee recommended a six-month suspension and respondent suggested a public censure. The Referee found respondent's attempt at mitigation "suspect" and "simply not worthy of belief." The Referee concluded that respondent's "deceptive testimony under oath, coupled with his troubled professional and personal history evince[s] a person not worthy of belief." Thus, the Referee recommended a six-month suspension and that respondent take and pass the ethics portion of the New York State bar exam before seeking readmission.
In May 2012, the Hearing Panel issued a report in which it disagreed with the Referee only to the extent of not sustaining charge 6 and similarly recommended a six-month suspension and respondent's retaking of the ethics portion of the bar exam before readmission. The Panel noted its own concern, as well as the Referee's, regarding respondent's comment that he is "addicted to lying." The Panel pointed out that, while it was ...